Thursday, 14 May 2009

Teaching - A "noble" profession nobody wants to get into

A society can often be judged by the professions it eulogises. What are the professions that are aspirational ? What do people want to be ?

Its a sad fact of our times that in no nation would the teacher figure at the top of the list. Very few people really want to be teachers anymore. If the best minds are not working at the schools, colleges and universities, how is a knowledge society like ours going to be sustained.

This is true of business education as well, With all respect to my academic friends, the best minds in the business world are not at the business schools.

Why ?

The obvious answer is that there is little money in academic life. It is a well known fact that an outstanding professor with a lifetime of experience would earn less than a green horn passing out of business school on his first day at the job. So why would anybody, other than those laudable souls who do it out of passion, ever aspire to an academic career.

But its not only money. Business schools often do not practice what they preach. The working environment in the business school is not great. Its a culture that breeds "satisfactory under performance". The best minds are not challenged to work there. More of this tomorrow.

Business schools also suffer from the extreme stratification that happens in say the sports field. The stars are feted like gods. In business schools the top 5% are world renowned - they get the plum consultancies, sit on Boards of companies, get invited to speak everywhere and are treated like rock stars. The balance 95% see nothing. This is not so stark in the business world. 50% may be toilers, but the other 50% can reach places.

But, at the end, its the value society places on the teaching profession. In many ways their position is similar to the nursing profession. If you ask somebody to rank the most "noble" of professions , teaching and nursing would come at the top and a businessman would appear close to the bottom. And yet, do we want to become teachers and nurses. No.

Yes, it does boil down to money. We must pay our teachers 5 or 10 times more. Some of the best minds in the world must get into academics. Its an investment societies have to make.

With apologies to the Duke of Wellington, "The battles of business are won on the corridors of Harvard". Little wonder that the business world is where it is today !

12 comments:

aparna said...

very well written.. and yes it is a scary thought, when not many bright minds want to venture into teaching as they are paid peanuts..

rads said...

My husband can associate very well with this. He was a professor before getting into IT mostly coz 1) there was no respect for teachers; neither from his students nor his family and friends, 2) IT paid more. No wonder these days engg colleges do not have good faculty and as a result no good engineers are produced. Nice write-up.

Ramesh said...

@ Aparna - Thanks

@ Rads - see, what a pity. The brain drain from academia is sad.

le embrouille blogueur said...

Very well said Ramesh.If you looked up the news in West Bengal, this is an ongoing struggle with thousands of underpaid teachers taking to the streets, trying to negotiate.Very sad.

Adesh Sidhu said...

You have hit the nail right on its head. It is all about money. If you pay peanuts, you know what you will get.

Thomas said...

I don't know about India. But in my (German) experience, what really put me off the idea of staying in academia was the need to keep publishing irrelevant articles in scholarly journals. If it's relevant for real life, it won't get published. If it gets published, it isn't relevant. Slightly exaggerated maybe, but that's what it felt like.

Vinoo John said...

Nice thought and well presented!....

And by the way I came to your blog through PS's Blog...was surprised to see a familar face!

Not sure if you can remember me..we used to stay in Acropolis..I had met you briefly outside UE Square couple of years back!
We live in UK now and my nine year old( can't believe yours is eight! remember her during HEAD START Days!)also suffers with the Tudor times!....

Ramesh said...

@ blogueur - Yes the situation is quite bad in eastern India

@ Adesh - Unfortunately so.

@ Thomas - Yes very true. The more unreadable it is, the greater the chance of publication. Somehow unreadability is equated with scholarliness.

Ramesh said...

@ Vinoo - Hey, great to catch up again. Thanks for visiting. Its indeed a small world.

Can't believe how fast these kids grow up. I am in China these days. It seems like Acropolis was so far away !

Keep in touch. My email is k.ramesh@hotmail.com

Preeti Shenoy said...

Very well said. I loved this post. In international schools teachers are paid well though and what i am told is that the situation is changing a lot these days.But still teaching is really not on the coveted list.
Cheers
preeti

Athivas said...

LOOOVVVVVED this post!! Teaching is looked down, it hurts me when people say they took teaching because, they had no other choice :(. Fortunately, things are changing now, for the good, or so I believe. And it hurts even more when they compare an average IT professional, with a passionate teacher, in terms of the paycheck. But, Pay me more or less, anytime, I ONLY want to be an academician!! [Preferably in a school...]

Ramesh said...

@athivas - a true teacher at heart speaks. Ma'am I salute thee. Its people like you, with a passion for teaching who'll change our world. When you join the school, will you take me in as well. I'd love to teach too.

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